FSF Seminar: Detailed Study and Analysis of GPL and LGPL
Detailed Study and Analysis of GPL and
School, Columbia University
New York, NY
January 20, 2004 (9:00 am - 6:00 pm)
This one-day course gives a section-by-section explanation of the
most popular Free Software copyright license, the GNU General Public
License (GNU GPL), and teaches lawyers, software developers, managers
and business people how to use the GPL (and GPL'd software)
successfully in a new Free Software business and in existing,
Prerequisites: Attendees should have a general
familiarity with software development processes. A basic
understanding of how copyright law typically applies to software is
course is of most interest to lawyers, software developers and
managers who run (or have clients who run) software businesses that
modify and/or redistribute software under terms of the GNU GPL or
LGPL, or who wish to make use of existing GPL'd and LGPL'd software in
The course will include the topics listed below, along with ample
time for questions and discussions.
Moglen will be the lunchtime speaker. Professor Moglen is
Professor of Law and Legal History at Columbia Law School and one of
the nation's foremost scholars on copyright, patents and the proposed
“Broadcast Flag”. He is also a member of FSF's Board of
Directors and the foundation's General Counsel. Professor Moglen has
also written extensively on the SCO vs IBM lawsuit.
* Free Software
Principles and the Free Software Definition
principles that motivated the creation of these licenses are
presented. Unlike licenses that seek to lock up software in a
proprietary fashion, the GPL and LGPL are designed to grant freedom to
innovate, learn and improve. Those principles influence licensing
policy decisions. We present the specific definition of the concept
of “Free Software” (software whose license grants freedoms
to copy, share, modify and redistribute the software either gratis or
for a fee) for for-profit companies.
* Preamble of the GNU
General Public License (GPL)
presents the intent of the license. The preamble puts forth the
motivations for the detailed terms and conditions that follow in the
license. We discuss the language of the preamble in detail to show
how it frames the legal details that follow.
* GPL, Section 0:
GPL's Section 0
defines and presents the terms that make the basis of this copyright
license. We discuss those definitions and the copyright scope of the
* GPL, Section 1:
Grant for Verbatim Source Copying
Section 1 defines the terms for making
source-only copies of software programs. We discuss how those rules
work and the requirements and obligations for distributors of GPL'd
source, whether they choose to distribute at no charge or for
* Derivative Works:
Statute and Case Law
licensing in general, and the GPL and LGPL in particular, relies
critically on the concept of derivative work since software that is
independent (i.e., not derivative) of Free Software need not abide by
any of the terms of the applicable Free Software license. If a work
is a derivative work of Free Software, then the terms of the license
are triggered, and one has obligations to comply with the terms of the
Free Software license under which the original work is distributed.
Therefore, one is left to ask, just what is a “derivative
work?” We will show how the answer to that question depends on
which court is being asked. We also present the best background
information available to build a working understanding of what is
generally considered a derivate work in the rapidly changing field of
software copyright law.
* GPL, Section 2:
Grants for Source Derivative Works
Section 2 sets
forth the rules for creation of derivative works of GPL'd software.
We discuss the intent of this section of GPL and how it relates to the
copyright situation discussed in our discussion of derivative works.
We also explain the details of preparing derivative source in a
* GPL, Section 3:
Grants for Creating Binary Derivative Works
distribution works well for technically savvy clients and users, but
most want runnable binary programs as well. Section 3 gives
permission for the creation and distribution of such binary works. We
explain how GPL's requirement for corresponding source code operates,
and detail what distribution options are available to distributors of
binary GPL'd software. We explore the benefits and downsides of each
of those options.
* The Implied Patent
Grant in GPL
Patent rights are
most often granted expressly, through detailed language in a license.
However, express patent grants are not the exclusive way rights in
patents are granted by patentees. Even without express language,
patent rights can be granted by a patentee's actions or behavior. The
GPL contains no express patent grant. Does that mean it grants less
rights in the licensor's patents than other licenses which do? Or,
does the GPL, in its silence, actually result in a grant of patent
rights to the licensee greater than what occurs through many other
Free Software and “Open Source” licenses?
We will consider these questions and
provide detailed answers to them.
* GPL, Section 4:
Termination of License
terminates rights under the GPL for those who violate it. We discuss
how such termination works, what it means for violators, what risks
one takes in violating, and how rights are typically restored. We
briefly mention how Section 4 is used as the central tool in GPL
* GPL, Section 5:
Acceptance of License
GPL is not a
contract, so acceptance of the license works differently than it does
for contracts. We discuss how this acceptance works under the copyright
rules that govern the GPL.
* GPL, Section 6:
Prohibition on Further Restrictions
terms cannot be placed on GPL'd software that would trump the rights
granted under GPL. We discuss how Section 6 is used to ensure that no
such additional restrictions occur. We briefly discuss how this leads
to the concept of GPL-incompatible Free Software licenses.
* GPL, Section 7:
Conflicts with Other Agreements or Orders
Just as additional
licensing restrictions cannot trump the GPL, outside agreements,
patent licenses or court orders cannot do so either. We discuss how
Section 7 ensures that other rules outside of the direct software
license cannot take rights away from users, distributors, and
modifiers of GPL'd software.
* GPL, Section 8:
International Licensing Issues
Section 8 is a
rarely used part of the GPL that helps copyright holders when certain
technologies are prohibited from full international distribution due
to draconian rules elsewhere in the world. We explain how Section 8
helps such copyright holders.
* GPL, Section 9: FSF
as GPL's Stewards
We discuss how the
update process and release of new GPL versions happens.
* GPL, Section 10:
Copyright Holder's Exceptions to GPL
Section 10 reminds
licensees that under copyright law, other relicensing arrangements can
be made. We discuss how this can often be used as a business model
and we explicate that model's benefits and downsides.
* GPL, Section 11:
Disclaimer of Warranties
* GPL, Section 12:
Limitation of Liability
Almost all software
licenses, including Free Software licenses such as the GPL, contain
sections, typically in all caps, regarding warranties and liability.
The purposes of these sections are lost on most non-lawyers, but
attorneys understand the importance their language provides to both
the licensor and the licensee. Some have argued that the GPL's
Sections 11 and 12 render it entirely unenforceable. We consider
whether that is true, and present the likely interpretation and
implementation of the GPL's Warranty Disclaimer and Liability
* Lesser General
Public License (LGPL)
The LGPL is a
“scaled back” version of GPL, designed specifically to
allow creation of a very well-defined class of proprietary derivative
works. However, it does prohibit turning the LGPL'd software itself
directly into proprietary software.
We discuss the
basic design of LGPL and how it compares and contrasts with GPL. We
introduce the two classes of derivative works covered by LGPL,
“works that use the library” and “works based on the
library”, and give some concrete examples of what proprietary
derivative works are prohibited and permitted when basing the software
on an LGPL'd work.
Pricing (Book by December 24, 2003 for early registration
$495 for registrations on or before
December 24, 2003 and $595 after December 24
Policy: Applicants with annual incomes of up to $15,000 are
entitled to a 75% discount. People with incomes between $15,000 and
$30,000 receive a 50% discount. Any member of the judiciary,
academics or attorneys from non-profit organizations receive a 10%
discount. If you fall within one of these categories, please contact
John at <firstname.lastname@example.org> or
Ravi at <email@example.com> or by
phone at 617.620.9640.
To register for the
seminar, please download
the registration form,
fill it in and fax it to FSF.
Credits: Attorneys who successfully complete the day long course
will be entitled to 7 New York Transitional CLE credits toward the
area of Professional Practice.
Companies that have
signed up as Corporate Patrons of FSF receive two complimentary seats
per year at FSF seminars and reduced rates for additional
contact <firstname.lastname@example.org> for
more details. You can find out more about the Corporate Patron
The seminar will be
held at Columbia Law School in New York. Directions will be sent
following registration. For more information, please contact Ravi
Khanna, FSF's Director of Communication
at <email@example.com> or by